Autonomous Gas Detection Using a Robot Mounted with the Falco PID Detector

The Background

Established in 2017, ExRobotics was founded to commercially develop robotics technology for use in potentially explosive atmospheres typically found at oil and gas production and processing facilities.

These facilities are often found in remote locations within harsh environments; even on facilities that are normally unmanned, a human presence is usually still needed for regular inspection work.

Therefore, deploying Ex certified robots (ATEX and IECEx Zone1) can have a considerable positive impact on safety by minimizing worker field trips, which in turn significantly reduces operating costs.

The EXR-1 Robot

The ExRobotics ExR-1 robot is fitted with cameras for visual inspection, microphones for sound monitoring and gas detectors for leak detection. It transmits an alarm to the control room when a leak is detected.

The ExR-1 autonomously navigates through terrain and installations with the capacity to find its way back to its docking station to recharge. This means that operators and inspectors can minimize their visits to remote and/or hazardous locations, significantly improving their work safety.

Our robots are used in the oil and gas industry mainly for first response, fugitive emission and preventative maintenance. The introduction of more stringent fugitive emission regulations and the subsequent opening up of new markets prompted the need for a fixed gas detection instrument that could be incorporated into our remotely operated ExR-1 robot.

Ian Peerless, Operations Director, ExRobotics

Remote Control Over the Public 4G Network

When configuring the robot in this way, it is used for both surveillance and as a first responder at potentially hazardous and/or remote sites. The operator is situated in a central control facility, driving each robot in turn by means of using its sensors as the eyes and ears of the operator.

Autonomous Navigation

When configuring the robot in this way, it is used for constant and auditable operations rounds at hazardous and/or remote sites. The robot is fitted with cameras for visual inspection and microphones for sound monitoring. It navigates itself automatically between and on inspection locations.

Leak-Detection

This configuration facilitates enhanced emission control as the robot is equipped with a range of leak-detectors for pre-entry safety rounds. The robot is fitted with cameras for visual inspection, microphones for sound monitoring and a variety of gas detectors for leak detection. It transmits an alarm to the control room if a leak is detected.

The ION Science Falco VOC monitor was recommended by a significant player in the oil industry who conducted extensive performance tests and trials at a large refinery where the Falco came out on top. When ExRobotics did testing of its own, we found the PID instrument to be robust and reliable.

Ian Peerless, Operations Director, ExRobotics

Autonomous Gas Detection Using a Robot Mounted with the Falco PID Detector

Image Credit: ION Science

Autonomous Gas Detection Using a Robot Mounted with the Falco PID Detector

Image Credit: ION Science

The ION Science Solution

Instrument: Falco Fixed PID Detector

ION Science’s Falco demonstrates rapid response times and multiple state-of-the-art design features. The instrument’s ‘typhoon technology’ deters the formation of condensation on the sensor, making it perfect for use in high humidity and harsh weather conditions.

Easy to operate, Falco intrinsically safe sensor is externally located, which enables quick and easy servicing without the requirement for a hot work permit. The Falco PID introduces ION Science’s patented Fence Electrode Technology which practically eradicates the effects of airborne humidity and safeguards against contamination.

This innovative feature ensures complete reliability and accuracy in the field while limiting drift issues and prolonging run time. There are eight models in the Falco series offering detection ranges as low as 0 - 10 ppm with parts per billion (ppb) sensitivity or as high as 0 – 3000 ppm.

The Falco’s certified flame and explosion proof enclosure is certified to EX d IIC T4 II and the external sensor to EX ib IIC T4 Gb II.

A 4 – 20 mA analog output enables the easy integration of Falco into a DCS control system to provide warning or control of high VOC levels in the working environment. Two relay outputs mean that it can be remotely connected, plus RS485 output with Modbus protocol included as standard facilitates network connectivity.

The Outcome

Ian Peerless, Operations Director at ExRobotics, says, “So far, feedback from customers using the ExR-1 gas detection robot with Falco PID has been very good. It has fulfilled the urgent need for a remotely operated VOC monitor in line with the tightening of fugitive emission regulations.”

The key advantages of the Falco PID are flexibility of communication channels, adequate power requirements and importantly, certification. ExRobotics supply the only Ex robot for this kind of application so it was vital the instrument was accredited for use in hazardous zones and atmospheres. Importantly, the Falco is also able to detect those VOCs commonly found in the oil industry and offers high sensitivity to a broad range of gases.

Ian Peerless, Operations Director, ExRobotics

“It is still early days for the ExR-1 gas detection robot as it is an emerging market and an entirely new concept. However, many oil majors currently have them on test making it highly likely we will purchase more ION Science’s Falco fixed PIDs going forward. We are also excited about the option of a FalcoTAC instrument as benzene monitoring is becoming a bigger and bigger requirement.”

“ExRobotics is already recommending the Falco to other oil companies. Our robots are used all over the world so end users can see just how good the instrument is. We are also optimistic that there is likely to be a wider use for the ExR-1 gas detection model across the chemical, mining and energy industries.”

“Our relationship with ION Science is very good and we are happy to work alongside them to explore future joint opportunities.”

The functionality of the Falco comes by way of an intuitive user interface with an OLED display and five magnetically activated LED switches – up, down, left, right and enter – which are back-lit to verify the correct button is being pressed.

For further convenience and ease of use, brightly colored red, amber and optional pulsing green status indicators are clearly displayed in sunlight, meaning checks can be performed from a distance of up to 20 meters.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Ion Science.

For more information on this source, please visit Ion Science.

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